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GUIDE TO SICILIAN WINE | Fine Italian Food and Wine


August 13, 2019 adminIFAW

Sicily is one of the most vital regions of Italy from an enological point of view. Different historical and cultural legacies coexist in a single territory, making the Sicilian wine heritage unique. The richness is undoubtedly due also to the terroir and to the climate particularly favorable to the development of the vine, despite the summer heat, which, although scorching, favors the growth of organic crops, averting bacteriological treatments.

With its vineyards as far as the eye can see, spread over lush and hilly terrain and partly mountainous around Etna (3323m), Sicily far exceeds the cultivation of Tuscany, for example, for about twice the number of vines, counting on no less than 107,000 hectares of vines.



Catarratto has long been the most common white grape in western Sicily. Despite the fact that the grapes are not particularly prized, as well as the Carricante, but both offer very original white wines: from Catarratto grapes usually whites inherit great freshness of taste, floral aromas and flavor on the palate, while from Carricante grapes (often used in blends with the previous or Insolia) are perceived more fragrant vegetal hints and a strong acidity that makes it particularly suitable for aging.

Inzolia is perhaps the most widespread white grape variety in all of Sicily and appears to have been imported from Tuscany, where it is called Ansonica. Sicilian white wines from Insolia grapes are very tasty, fragrant, elegant and capable of literally flooding the glass with fruity essences and light herbaceous aromas that are well balanced with each other.

Introduced initially in Marsala and then later also in the neighboring provinces, there is the Grillo grape, which has always been used for the production of Marsala DOC, because it is particularly prone to aging. Vinified in purity, it can give wines of an impressive organoleptic thickness, potentially therefore very long-lived, endowed with a set of pleasant vegetable and floral aromas.



The grape to which Sicily owes much of its enological reputation is the Nero d’Avola (name deriving from the city of Avola, in the Syracusan hinterland). It is known for the sumptuousness of the red wines that derive from it, characterized by an intense aroma of ripe red fruits and an enveloping persistent tannic texture.

Among the red berried grapes of particular interest in this region, we also find the Nerello Mascalese and the Nerello Cappuccio, morphologically different from the one grown in Calabria and here mainly planted around the slopes of Etna, from which in fact originates the name Etna DOC . This vine grows even up to 1000m in height and is proving to be successful above all due to its fine taste.

To the south of the island, in the Ragusa area, we find the Frappato, the main grape of the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG: typical lively cherry aroma, fresh and soft taste, very harmonious.

From Caltanissetta and Agrigento, as well as Trapani and Palermo, an ancient vine originating from the island, called Perricone (or Pignatello) is coming back into vogue, which, vinified in purity, produces wines with a vinous smell, rather than full-bodied and harmonious.

Finally, we also remember the presence of international crops, such as those of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that have found power and quality in the region.



Sicily is also often referred to as the queen of Marsala DOC wine production. It is a liqueur (or fortified) wine that at first glance seems distant relative of the Sherry, obtained from a white vinification of Grillo, Insolia and Catarratto grapes or simply Grillo. Once fermentation is complete, “tanning” is added, which is a mixture of must and alcohol, which increases its alcohol content.

Zibibbo (also known as the Moscato di Alessandria) is another white grape variety grown exclusively on the island of Pantelleria, so a limited edition, used for the production of passito wines such as Passito di Pantelleria DOCG, but can be vinified also in the dry version, obtaining a highly fragrant white, with sweet notes of apricot and orange blossom and an almond aftertaste.

Moscato is another grape variety that continues to be considered very promising over time, especially in reference to the DOC Moscato di Noto and the Moscato di Siracusa, in addition to the famous Moscato di Pantelleria, cultivated with Zibibbo grapes on the volcanic soils of the island of Pantelleria.

Another interesting production of sweet wine is Malvasia delle Lipari, thanks to the sweet taste of oranges that characterizes the entire archipelago on which the vines grow.

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